Planners to oversee sustainable urban drainage, government confirms

The government has confirmed that it will push ahead with plans to give local planning authorities responsibility for approving and maintaining eco-friendly sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS), despite concerns raised by more than two-thirds of consultation respondents about the move.

SuDS: plan to increase implementation
SuDS: plan to increase implementation

Following the 2007 floods, the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 said that SuDS would become compulsory on all new developments from April this year.

New SuDS Approval Bodies (SABs) would be responsible for their approval, adoption and maintenance, the Act said.

However, last summer, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) proposed in a joint consultation that, instead, the conventional planning system would be responsible for SUDS approval and maintenance.

In a statement yesterday, Pickles confirmed that both local plan-makers and decision-makers should "ensure that [SuDS] are put in place" for all residential developments of 10 or more homes and major commercial schemes, "unless demonstrated to be inappropriate".

The changes would take effect from 6 April 2015, Pickles added.

According to the DCLG and Defra consultation response, "71 per cent of respondents expressed the view that the proposed revision to planning policy, as set out in the consultation ... would not deliver sustainable drainage which would be maintained".

Most concerns focused on "uncertainty about the way in which [SuDS] would be maintained and the lack of technical expertise and capacity currently held by local planning authorities to approve and inspect [them]".

In response, the government said that, to access the necessary technical expertise, authorities "should consult the relevant lead local flood authority on the management of surface water".

Through the use of planning conditions or obligations, councils should make sure there are "clear arrangements in place for ongoing maintenance over the lifetime of the development", the reponse said.

The government further said it would "produce clear and straightforward planning practice guidance" on SuDS.

The DCLG and Defra consultation response can be found here.

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